Film festivals aren’t exclusively for the rich and famous
Stars and Stripes November 17, 2023
Anyone who’s ever been transfixed by a certain film has likely felt the urge to ask its director what the inspiration was for certain scenes. And sometimes an actor’s portrayal of a character seems so spot-on you can’t help wondering if he or she has gone through something similar in real life.
Attending a film festival can serve as a vital link between the on-screen world and the spectator’s experience. And it’s not just industry players and film nerds who can benefit from attending such an event. Even the best-known and glitziest of film festivals generally offer the public access to selected screenings and special events.
Beyond the screening of films, festivals often give the viewers the chance to engage with directors, film crews, actors and others in Q&A sessions to follow. Other festival sections might be made up of retrospectives, competitions or homages to certain actors or directors. Special events such as parties, live music, exhibitions and late-night shows also pump up a festival’s fun factor.
The colder months of the year are perfectly suited to an indoor pursuit such as watching movies back-to-back at your nearest film festival. Here are three places to step into the world of cinematic wonder in the weeks to come:
Wiesbaden, Germany: The exground filmfest, which began in 1990, continues to wear a name that reflects its original focus: “ex” for experimental and “ground” for underground films. Through Nov. 26, Hessen’s capital will attract tens of thousands of cinemagoers with a program consisting of 200 films from 57 countries. There’s always a focus country, and in 2023, Chile’s film landscape will bask in the spotlight. Other sections include Made in Germany, European Cinema, World Cinema and Youth Days.
Likely to be of particular interest to U.S. audiences is the festival’s American Independents section: this year’s selection of seven feature films includes the comedy “Drugstore June,” in which a young woman tries to solve the mystery of who robbed the town’s pharmacy; “Fancy Dance,” in which a member of an indigenous community seeks to find her missing sister; and “A Great Place to Call Home,” in which a senior’s life is turned upside down after he reports seeing a UFO in his garden.
Movies are shown at the Caligari Cinema and other venues in Wiesbaden and Frankfurt. It’s usually possible to get tickets right at the box office before the show; most screenings cost 8 euros. A pass for viewing 10 different films goes for 60 euros. Online: exground.com/en
Mannheim, Germany: Since 1952, audiences in the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan area have enjoyed something special in the autumn. The International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg (IFFMH) sets its focus on the discovery and nurturing of the next generation of filmmakers. Most of the films shown here represent the first or second works of young and upcoming directors. The festival, which runs through Nov. 26, counts among Germany’s most important film events.
In 2023, 72 films from 51 countries will make up the IFFMH’s main program. Sections include “On the Rise,” in which 16 feature-length films made by exceptional directors compete for the official festival awards. “Pushing the Boundaries” is a showing of films taking on the most critical issues of today’s society. The “Filmscapes” section provides a space for documentaries and essay films. “Facing new Challenges” explores the possibilities of the moving image outside of classical narrative cinema; this year’s focus is on video art and club music.
Special events this year include American-Dominican media artist and DJ Kelman Duran’s video installation challenging persistent colonial structures in the atrium of Mannheim’s Kunsthall; a concert and the showing of a biker gang film at the Alte Feuerwache Mannheim on Nov. 18 and assorted works by an artists’ collective from Nairobi to be displayed and performed at the IFFMH’s new festival lounge in the Karlstorbahnhof Heidelberg.
Tickets to individual screenings generally cost 12 euros for adults and 8 euros for youth and students, while a festival pass goes for 80 euros. Tickets can be obtained at the tourist information points located next to the central train stations of Mannheim and Heidelberg. Online: iffmh.de
Naples, Italy: The 15th edition of the Naples Human Rights Film Festival, titled “The Rights of Minors – Children at War” looks at an issue that seems to grow more urgent with each passing day. As outbreaks of conflicts slide into long-term wars, children and young people become both actors and spectators in a world of heartbreak, violence and acute need. This year, the festival surveys these grim scenarios from the point of view of the little ones forced to adapt to the choices of people far removed from their everyday realities. The festival takes place as both an online and in-person event through Nov. 25.
This year’s festival is dedicated to the victims of an incident that happened this year in southern Italy. On Feb. 26, a boat carrying migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Tunisia ran aground on the shore of Ionian Calabria near the resort village of Cutro. At least 34 minors perished in the incident, whose exact number of victims will never be known but is believed to total close to 100.
Films will be screened in the Sala delle Mura Greche of the Oriental University (Palazzo Corigliano - Piazza San Domenico Maggiore) from 7 p.m.-11 p.m. each evening through Nov. 24. Entry is free. Online: cinenapolidiritti.it/web